The State Of the Union: Obama is an Eisenhower Republican

January 26, 2015 by Jim Miller

obama-eisenhower3By Jim Miller

Last week, President Obama gave a pretty good speech in which he outlined a series of solid progressive policy proposals along with a few very bad ideas like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

What was most telling about the response to his speech, however, was how glowing the praise was in some quarters for what, in essence, was a fairly pedestrian list of things to do: raise the minimum wage, support collective bargaining, admit that climate change is real and act upon it in some way, tax the rich more than the middle and working classes, recognize basic civil rights, and make community college free for students as a way to expand opportunity, as well as some other modest initiatives.

These proposals, along with Obama’s threat to veto the Keystone Pipeline have encouraged many downtrodden Democrats and progressives as they should, but they hardly represent a significant shift in our politics.

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We Need Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Fierce Urgency of Now”: Beyond Our Current Failure of Imagination

January 19, 2015 by Jim Miller
Thumbnail image for We Need Martin Luther King Jr.’s  “Fierce Urgency of Now”: Beyond Our Current Failure of Imagination

By Jim Miller

It’s the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and we will be greeted, as is the case these days, with lots of empty gestures and vanilla rhetoric that erases the radical nature of King’s legacy and neuters the impact of his ideas. As I have noted in years past, King was not a moderate whose only idea was that we should all just get along and respect each other. He was a provocative thinker and activist who challenged the core values of our society both then and now.

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Notes From the Left Coast: California Democrats Need to Raise the Bar on Budget

January 12, 2015 by Jim Miller

DemocraticsStrategies121014By Jim Miller

Last week Eddie Kurtz of the Courage Campaign published a provocative column in the Sacramento Bee in the wake of Governor Brown’s triumphant release of the upcoming budget for the state.

Rather than praising Brown and the state Democrats for being a model for the nation, as many in Democratic circles have been doing, Kurtz took the opportunity to raise the bar of our expectations as he pointed out that …

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Not So Happy New Year: Obama Pushing Trans-Pacific Partnership in 2015

January 5, 2015 by Jim Miller

TPP_finalBy Jim Miller

Last week, I wrote about Project Censored’s Top 25 most underreported stories, one of which was “Wikileaks Revelations on Trans-Pacific Partnership Ignored by Corporate Media.”

Coming in at number three on their list, Project Censored notes that what is important about this story is that :

Eight hundred million people, and one-third of all world trade, stand to be affected by the treaty—and yet only three people from each member nation have access to the entire document. Meanwhile, six hundred “corporate advisors,” representing big oil, pharmaceutical, and entertainment companies, are involved in the writing and negotiations of the treaty.

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The Most Important Stories the Corporate Media Didn’t Tell You in 2014

December 29, 2014 by Jim Miller

Media LiesBy Jim Miller

We live in troubled times but are increasingly ill equipped to deal with them. The average American is awash in a sea of ghastly, contextless headlines punctuated by inane trivia and pointless titillation. Somewhere between the latest massacre and Kim Kardashian’s most recent booty shot we got lost.

Indeed, some studies have even shown that the more news we consume the less we actually know. That’s because so much of what we have come to think of as “news” is really a form of corporate propaganda, a depthless mass of factoids designed to not interfere with the bottom line. Thus we know less as we amuse ourselves to death.

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Stocking Stuffers, Lumps of Coal, and ‘Buy Nothing’ Christmas Gifts

December 22, 2014 by Jim Miller

No_SaleBy Jim Miller

As Christmas approaches along with the end of the year, it’s time to assess some of the best and the worst of 2014.

For those of you out there who just can’t jump on the “Buy Nothing Christmas” train, 2014 is a particularly good year to think about buying your friends and loved ones a book to stuff in their stocking.

This year saw the release of an unusual number of truly groundbreaking books that should inform serious intellectual discourse on the great issues of our day for years to come. So give the gift of knowledge rather than a shiny commodity fetish.

Here are my top five picks: …

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On Torture: Deeper into the American Heart of Darkness

December 15, 2014 by Jim Miller

torture bedBy Jim Miller

A couple of weeks ago I evoked Joseph Conrad’s classic critique of colonialism when discussing the disposability of black and brown lives in the wake of Ferguson and our collective ability to dehumanize or “thingify” black and brown people at home and abroad.

As I observed then, “in Conrad’s classic novel Heart of Darkness we are taken on a journey into the core of the European colonial enterprise. And while the naïve reader may expect an adventure in the ‘savage’ world of Africa, what one quickly discovers is that it is the ‘hollow men’ of Europe bent on the ruthless exploitation of the land and the people who are the real savages, whose moral emptiness and desire to ‘exterminate the brutes’ is the actual horror.”

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Dystopia Now: “Anticipatory Grief” or “Real Grounds for Hope”?

December 8, 2014 by Jim Miller

apocalypseBy Jim Miller

Just when you think you are living in a dystopian science fiction novel, the world keeps upping the ante. It’s not just scenes of burning cars and storefronts in Ferguson on TV evoking the mood either. There are some even darker clouds on the horizon that many of us just don’t want to acknowledge, no less come to terms with in a thoroughgoing and serious fashion.

Last week, as the country went through yet another round of dismay, rage, and painful racial self-examination in the wake of a New York Grand Jury’s failure to bring any charges against a policeman for the death by chokehold of Eric Garner, a pair of other unsettling stories emerged on the margins of the American media.

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Ferguson: America’s Heart of Darkness

December 1, 2014 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

PR- tile detailAlong with so many people last week, I watched the events in Ferguson, Missouri unfold with profound dismay and anger while fighting a sense of despair over the intractable nature of American racism. We all knew it was coming, but that didn’t soften the blow.

On the social media, one might also have predicted the outpouring of callousness and hate toward Michael Brown and those protesting the Grand Jury verdict, but it made it no less loathsome. Even the subsequent torching of Michael Brown’s family church was not a shock, just eerily resonant.

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Thanks for Nothing (and Everything): On Walmart, Black Friday, and Thich Nhat Hanh

November 24, 2014 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

walmart binsIt’s Thanksgiving week and Walmart is getting ready to ruin the party by asking nearly one million of its workers to come in on the holiday to get a jump-start on the Black Friday consumer frenzy. Given its size and influence, Walmart’s move, if successful, is likely to set a trend in the industry and wreck Thanksgiving for millions more underpaid service sector workers in the future.

Fortunately, OUR Walmart is responding in kind by promising the biggest Black Friday Strike ever with allies in labor and the community promising to join hands with them in their protest. As Think Progress recently reported:

Workers have gone on strike and protested for the past two Black Fridays.

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The United Taxi Workers Victory and the Struggle for a New Labor Movement

November 17, 2014 by Jim Miller

IMG_0767By Jim Miller

Last Monday’s victory for the United Taxi Workers of San Diego provided a much-needed boost for local labor.

After a year that has included some tough losses at the polls and the effort to save the minimum wage ordinance, it was inspiring to see the taxi drivers (largely East African immigrant workers) burst into celebration and pour out of Golden Hall chanting “USA!” as they embraced each other, mounted the planter boxes, and cheered for joy.

It was the kind of genuine expression of collective exuberance that comes when workers feel, perhaps for the first time, that they have taken ownership of their lives and destinies.

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Post Election Notes from the Left Coast: Apocalypse Now? Just Say No

November 10, 2014 by Jim Miller

Creative Commons image by Kevin Crumbs

By Jim Miller

Last week progressives in California rightfully felt a bit relieved that their state served as a seawall against the ocean of red that washed across America. Outside of our reactionary little backwater here in San Diego where Carl DeMaio can pretend to be moderate and almost win despite multiple scandals, there were bright spots in the rest of the state …

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3 Critical Votes Where You Can Make a Positive Difference on November 4th for California and San Diego

November 3, 2014 by Jim Miller

go voteBy Jim Miller

Most political observers are predicting bad results for the Democrats at the national level, but there are a few important races where progressives might be able to win key victories that will have a real effect here in California and a number of largely ignored down ballot contests where we can elect solid people while keeping some dangerous, incompetent characters out of public office.

More specifically, tomorrow we can:

1) Take a significant step away from the colossal stupidity of the last several decades of the war on drugs, senselessly draconian three strikes laws, a ballooning prison industrial complex, and surging economic inequality by passing Proposition 47. …

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Goodbye San Francisco Bay Guardian; Hello Wankergate

October 27, 2014 by Jim Miller

Bay Guardian Front PageBy Jim Miller

Recently, California lost one of its last remaining, genuinely progressive weeklies, the San Francisco Bay Guardian. As [people.power.media] tells the story:

The San Francisco Bay Guardian, the prize-winning newspaper and progressive voice, was shut down immediately by the San Francisco Media Company, after 48 years of “printing the news and raising hell.”

No warning for staff, just pack your boxes and get out. Boom. This historic independent newspaper, so long a pivotal force in San Francisco progressive politics and culture was suddenly treated as a corporate portfolio item, and lopped off the balance sheet . . .

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Utopia Revisited: Rethinking the Response to Faulconer’s Climate Action Plan

October 20, 2014 by Jim Miller

climate action plan sdBy Jim Miller

Since I last wrote on the People’s Climate March in late September, the grim environmental news has just kept coming in, whether it’s the revelation that September was the warmest month ever on planet earth, the Stanford study linking California’s grueling drought to climate change, the World Wildlife Federation report that the earth has lost half of its wildlife in the last fifty years, or the unpleasant surprise that, “In what could be termed as the worst effect of degrading climatic conditions and global warming, a new study has showed that fish in large numbers will disappear from the tropics by 2050”—it just doesn’t let up.

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Notes From the Education Wars: Marshall Tuck and the Plot Against Public Education

October 13, 2014 by Jim Miller

marshall-tuck-getting-chased-by-families-670x250By Jim Miller

After my column last week on the battle between Tom Torlakson and the corporate education reform machine backing Marshall Tuck, I was pleased to see The Nation magazine’s special issue on schools. The writers aptly note that the struggle in American education is not one of the “status quo” versus “reform,” but rather, it is between a kind of educational class war dressed up as reform and a more progressive vision that seeks to empower all kids equally.

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Tom Torlakson Versus the Corporate Education Reform Machine

October 6, 2014 by Jim Miller

The Most Important Race on the Ballot is the One No One is Talking About

DFER real democrats

By Jim Miller

This fall in San Diego the Peters vs. DeMaio and Kim vs. Cate showdowns are getting all the attention, but my pick for the most important race on the ballot is one that nobody is taking note of at the statewide level—and that’s a problem. The race in question is for . . . (wait for it) . . . State Superintendent of Public Instruction!

O.K. I know, Superintendent of Public Instruction races don’t usually get peoples’ hearts pumping, but if you are dismayed by the full-court-press assault on teachers, public education, and democratic local control over schools, …

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San Diego City Works Press, Sunshine/Noir II: Writing from San Diego and Tijuana

September 29, 2014 by Jim Miller

cityworks

November 1st Deadline Approaching

By Jim Miller

San Diego City Works Press is still accepting submissions for Sunshine/Noir II until November 1st. In particular we are looking for creative non-fiction pieces about underrepresented communities in San Diego and generally uncovered topics with regard to life in our region. We are also looking for good fiction, poetry, and artwork that runs against the grain of San Diego’s official story.

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America’s First Banned Book and the Battle for the Soul of the Country

September 22, 2014 by Jim Miller

New English Canaan CoverBy Jim Miller

It’s Banned Books Week and what better way to kick it off than with a salute to America’s first banned book: Thomas Morton’s New English Canaan published in 1637? New English Canaan is a three-volume affair containing Morton’s sympathetic observations about Native Americans along with a celebration of the beauty of the natural world and a fierce satire of the Puritans.

While some scholars point to other books such as John Eliot’s The Christian Commonwealth (written in the late 1640s) or William Pynchon’s The Meritorious Price of Our Redemption (1650)as the first books to be banned by the Puritans for theological or historical reasons, Morton’s New English Canaan precedes both of these texts and the conflict surrounding it is far more important and illustrative with regard to the political and cultural history of the United States.

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The People’s Climate March – What Will It Take to Save the Planet?

September 18, 2014 by Jim Miller

ClimateMarchBadgeBy Jim Miller and Kelly Mayhew

This coming Sunday, September 21st, is the People’s Climate March in New York City, here in San Diego, and elsewhere around the world.

The organizers hope that it will be “an unprecedented citizen mobilization” occurring “[a]s world leaders meet at the United Nations climate change summit” while marchers demand “the world we know is within our reach: a world with an economy that works for people and the planet; a world safe from the ravages of climate change;…”

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The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce: Oppressed Underdog?

September 8, 2014 by Jim Miller

A Pathetic Attempt to Re-Write History

Jerry Sanders 7By Jim Miller

Recently UT-San Diego sat down with San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO Jerry Sanders for an interview so he could lay out the Chamber’s “new” aggressive political action plan.

During the course of the interview Sanders was steadfast in his insistence that the Chamber exists to respond to the mythic hegemony of labor in San Diego politics.

For instance, when discussing the perceived need for the recent referendums on affordable housing, the Barrio Logan plan, and the minimum wage and earned sick days ordinance he explained:

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Unions and the Future of American Democracy

September 2, 2014 by Jim Miller

labor movementBy Jim Miller

Over the last year, the subject of economic inequality has been in the news quite a bit with the release of Robert Reich’s spectacular documentary Inequality for All and economist Thomas Piketty’s seminal work, Capital in the Twentieth Century. The picture they paint is a grim one and new bad numbers just keep rolling in.

For instance, a few weeks ago a Russell Sage Foundation study revealed that the wealth of the typical American household has dropped nearly 20 percent since 1984 and yet another study notes that private sector wages measured in real terms have dipped 16.2 percent since their 1972 high point. In the wake of that news, another US Census Bureau report came out showing that middle class household wealth fell by 35 percent between 2005 and 2011.

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Why Read? In Defense of Uselessness

August 18, 2014 by Jim Miller

happyfaceBy Jim Miller

While I still deeply love my chosen profession of teaching after twenty-five years of work at various colleges with the last seventeen of those at San Diego City College, it’s hard not to notice the constant drumbeat of critics casting doubt on the value of my life’s work in the humanities.

Whether they be corporate education reformers bent on imposing a business model on colleges or techno-boosters with a zeal to toss all that I hold dear into the dustbin of history, there is a long line of naysayers.

As David Masciotra recently noted in “Pulling the Plug on English Departments” in The Daily Beast, “The armies of soft philistinism are on the march and eager to ditch traditional literature instruction in favor of more utilitarian approaches . . . It is easy to observe the sad and sickly decline of American intellectual life, through the cultural and institutional lowering of standards, when prestigious publications promote the defense, if not the celebration, of lower standards.”

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Kevin Faulconer’s War on the Poor

August 11, 2014 by Jim Miller

war on the poor2By Jim Miller

Despite the fact that 63% of San Diegans support raising the wage, Mayor Faulconer vetoed San Diego’s minimum wage ordinance, definitively proving that he is more loyal to local plutocrats than to the people of the city, particularly those who work hard for very little.

Yes, with a stroke of the pen, Kevin Faulconer denied a raise to 172,000 people and took away earned sick days for even more local workers, a move that disproportionately affects women and people of color. Just as one could begin to feel good about the fact that our city did the right thing and stood up for those of our friends and neighbors who are most in need of a hand up, Mayor Faulconer struck them down.

When it was time to love his neighbors, he slammed the door in their faces. Rather than living with a more than reasonable compromise that will help rather than harm the local economy, he chose to declare war on the poor instead.

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In Paradise – for the Time Being

August 4, 2014 by Jim Miller

Devils_Postpile_National_Monument_near_Mammoth_LakesBy Jim Miller

I recently had the pleasure of spending some time at Devils Postpile National Monument basking in the stunning beauty of that geological marvel and the accompanying reminder of the deep time that underlies the shallow surface history that we mistake for all that is.

Indeed, if there is a heaven, places like this are surely part of it. Nonetheless, while pondering the unintentional artistry of glaciers it was impossible not to notice how dry the mountains are now after several years of drought.

In and around Yosemite, the creeks, rivers, and waterfalls are drying up far earlier than usual, and the forests are perpetually vulnerable to fire.

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After the Minimum Wage Win: the Battle Continues

July 21, 2014 by Jim Miller

Closeup of business people standingBy Jim Miller

San Diego’s progressive community got a well deserved shout-out last week in the national media with The Nation praising the good work of our city’s “expanding progressive base.”

More specifically, the article noted that the local movement to raise the minimum wage was comprised of many of the same folks who formed the community-labor alliance behind the David Alvarez mayoral campaign:

That coalition, Raise Up San Diego, includes the Center for Policy Initiatives as well as labor unions, immigrant rights groups and service providers.

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What Kind of City Is San Diego? It’s Time to Raise the Minimum Wage

July 14, 2014 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

raise min wageThe San Diego City Council will consider today whether to pass an ordinance or put forth a ballot measure to increase the city’s minimum wage and provide earned sick days for local workers.

Since the last time I wrote on this subject in late April, the original proposal of raising the minimum wage to the local Self-Sufficiency Standard of $13.09 with five earned sick days has been significantly lowered in order to address the concerns of opponents.

The current proposal keeps the initial five earned sick days but now only raises the minimum wage to $9.75 in 2015 …

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What the Supreme Court’s Harris v. Quinn Decision Means for Workers and American Democracy

July 7, 2014 by Jim Miller

David Sachs/SEIU via Equal Times

By Jim Miller

After last week’s slew of bad Supreme Court rulings much of the media attention rightfully went to the horrendous “Hobby Lobby” case where the rights of corporations were deemed more important than the rights of women.

But there was another big decision where the Supreme Court surprised some observers and ruled narrowly on Harris v. Quinn, the case which could have gutted public sector unions and virtually wiped out their ability to play in American politics by ending all public sector unions’ ability to collect agency fees. As the Daily Kos noted of the case:

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Endless Summer: On the Verge of the Sixth Extinction

June 30, 2014 by Jim Miller

sixth extinction“The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

We’ve seen a lot of bad news lately from the dismaying results of our last local election and a slew of reactionary court decisions at the state and national level to the re-emergence of the chaos in Iraq and the seemingly daily news reports of growing evidence that our widening level of economic inequality is becoming an entrenched and sadly taken-for-granted part of our new normal.

Even as we head into the heedless days of summer, we are greeted by yet more studies …

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San Diego Grit: Remembering Tony Gwynn

June 23, 2014 by Jim Miller

IMG_20140619_142336_131By Jim Miller

Tony Gwynn died last week and it stopped me. In part it was because he died too soon at 54, only four years older than me and many of my friends who grew up watching and admiring his skill as a player. As is always the case when someone who has been a part of your collective experience goes, there is a new hole in your life, that sense that something’s missing that won’t come back except as a ghost, a haunting memory.

But it was more than that. With the death of Gwynn, San Diego lost the last of his kind, a Southern California product who went to school at SDSU, came up with the Padres, and stayed here for his entire career, …

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